Craven Panniers have been cropping up in recent editions of OBA which reminded me of a time when I had occasion to visit their London factory when I was an Australian working in London in the late ‘60s. I’d had bikes in the past and always had this idea that I’d buy one while in the UK and attempt the trip back home overland. There was one problem. My Queensland licence had expired while I was in UK and I had, optimistically, posted it back to Rockhampton police station, asking them to renew it. They never replied. That meant getting a British licence and then being restricted to a 250cc machine. 50 Pounds bought me a 250cc 1962 BSA C15, basically a commuting bike and not exactly ideal for a long-distance trek, but it did have two Craven Panniers, one with a missing lid. I found the Craven factory address in North London and went up looking for a new one. For years I’d seen those Craven adverts in the bike mags for the world’s leading pannier manufacturers, so I assumed the factory would be some modern, glass-fronted state-of-the-art affair. It wasn’t what I’d expected but a small, narrow factory in a terraced row of what could have been Victorian-era workshops. “I’m looking for a left hand pannier lid”, I told the girl behind the counter. “See old Fred out the back and he’ll find you one”, she told me. I found old Fred in the small back workshop and he found me a lid. I’ve often thought how typical the factory was of post-war Britain when they made do. Even Morgans were then still being built in a few old sheds out in Worcestershire.
The bike and I did eventually head east, criss-crossing Europe trouble free and stopping off in Israel for a year. I lost that lid on the autobahn somewhere between Hanover and Nuremberg. There was one moment of panic when we entered Czechoslovakia, then still locked behind the Iron Curtain. The motor developed some really frighteningly loud knocking noises which I thought might be terminal until I worked out that the local standard petrol was about 70 octane and the consistency of kerosene. The premium wasn’t much better but it stopped the knocking. I reconditioned the motor in Israel, then not long after the six day war, and with no roads out. I was offered the chance to work my passage as deck crew on an Israeli freighter, Eilat to Singapore, and took it, taking the bike along. From Singapore, we travelled down through the Indonesian Islands, running out of road in Bali. Here I reluctantly sold the bike for US$40. I’d like to think that the locals have treated the old girl kindly and she’s still going strong. She deserved it, never having missed a beat all the way across. We never even had a puncture. P. B. Brown Rosemount Qld
INSET RIGHT Eden Grove, Nth London, home to the business operated by Ken and Molly Craven. Mr Brown with his C15 (and Craven Panniers) in Bali.